Nigeria: A Country Good At Wasting Talents, By Nkechi Cheery Bianze
was a student in the school where my dad used to be a principal. In
2006, 16 year old Mike took the WAEC and JAMB examinations. He made nine
A’s in his WAEC examination and a high score of 324 in JAMB.
piece was written by Nkechi Cheery Bianze. The views and opinions
expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect
the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.
selected University of Benin as first choice, and Delta State
University as second choice. After the post UME examination which he
also cleared in flying colours, UNIBEN refused to admit him for Medicine
because his father could not afford the N300,000 bribe that was
requested. He decided to opt for a less competitive course,
Microbiology, yet he was still asked for a N70,000 bribe. As practising
Christians, his parents also refused to pay the lower amount, even
though they could afford it, because bribing is against their faith.
dad was heartbroken because he knew this boy and could attest to his
academic ability. It was even more painful that everyone who got an
offer to study medicine in Uniben that year scored lower than Mike. It
was sad to see yet another brain almost become frustrated into wastage
by the corrupt Nigerian system.
My dad had taken Mike as a son, so
he encouraged him to take the SAT exams, rather than just stay at home
for a year doing nothing. Mike registered for the exams and came second
in Nigeria. The top three candidates then proceeded to represent Nigeria
in a scholarship examination organised in Africa by a body of Ivy
League Colleges in the US. Mike came first in the whole of Africa, and
got a fully funded eight year scholarship to study Medicine in Harvard
He left the country in 2007.
I contacted my dad
lately and he informed me that Mike had just graduated from medical
school, giving me the inspiration to write this article.
I got to
meet many other Mikes throughout my years of studying outside Nigeria.
Many Nigerian students topped their classes in my engineering school. A
classmate of mine at University graduated with a First Class, while also
being the overall best Aerospace Engineering student in my set. She
went ahead to the US to study for her Masters, which she completed last
year. Another friend graduated from my department a year before I did
with a First Class, and as the overall best graduating student in
Mechanical Engineering department, also with four academic awards. He
did a Masters and also finished with a Distinction. My cousin who has
just finished his Masters with a Distinction also graduated two years
ago with a First Class and as the overall best student, with two
You would not understand exactly how intelligent
young Nigerians are till you step your foot onto some foreign
Universities. Many of these students would never have been able to shine
if they had remained in Nigerian higher institutions.
are the “lucky” Mikes. I’m less worried about them. I’m more worried
about the Mikes who would never get the opportunity to exercise their
potentials, because they have been unfortunate to be born in Nigeria. My
heart breaks at the thought of the other Mikes in Nigeria whose brains
are wasting away. A vast majority of these Mikes never get to achieve
their dreams, because most of them are either from average or poor
backgrounds. They never get the chance, the opportunity, or privilege of
the right environment to achieve their maximum potentials. This is how
we waste our talents; this is how some of the brains within which the
Nigerian greatness is embedded, are either buried or chased into exile.
saner climes, academically gifted children are cherry-picked from a
young age, and the government ensures an excellent environment for these
students to thrive.
Of course, the Mike in this story does not
have any immediate plan of returning to Nigeria, so also the other three
people I mentioned. This is exactly what is playing out with other
Mikes who have had the privilege of exercising their maximum potentials
in other countries.
Mike wants to be a Neurosurgeon. He is 26
years old and fresh out of medical school. At this pace, he would become
a Neuro Surgeon in his early thirties; young, full of life, an alumnus
of the world’s most prestigious university with a bright future ahead of
him. Maybe someday a Nigerian would pay millions to receive treatment
in the US and Mike would be his surgeon. Our very own son of the soil
who we never gave the chance to grow, but the potentials of who another
country saw, picked him up from where we dumped him, and gave him a
In 2007, I read a magazine where three award-winning
British Neurosurgeons were mentioned. Two of them had Igbo names; one
originates from Delta State and the other from Imo State. But they were
referred to as three British neurosurgeons anyway. At least, one in
three black US Doctors is of Nigerian ancestry.
We frustrate our
talents and brains and the few who have had the opportunity to leave for
better environments hardly ever want to come back. You cannot blame
them for their decisions; what exactly are they coming back to?
rot extends beyond academics. Many of our sporting talents never get to
represent us in international competitions, not because they are not
good enough, but because, they do not have the “connections”. I strongly
believe that we have got talents that would beat Usain Bolt on the
tracks, but they may never be found because they are probably too poor
to be noticed in a country like Nigerian. Some other countries see the
talent in some of them and pick them up. Little wonder many Nigerians
who represent some other countries go ahead to win Olympic medals for
The thing about corruption and a messed up system
is that the repercussions are usually instantaneous. We’ve got a basket
full of problems in Nigeria.
Our educational institutions are
like time bombs, the health institutions are accidents waiting to
happen, the judiciary give nothing close to justice, and our government
is a circle of doom. Nigeria is falling deeper into sinking sand and
only Nigerians can rescue her.